By Constantinos Psillides
FOUR political refugees staging a hunger strike outside the UNCHR offices are determined to have their demands met or die trying, according to one of the protesters.
Muhammad Aldaf, who comes from the Pakistani-controlled area of Kashmir, told the Cyprus Mail that the protesters were out of options.
“The state rejected us. We are losing this battle but we will go with our heads held high. This time we will see to the end. I refuse to be a slave any more.
Live with dignity, die with dignity,” said Aldaf, after the immigration services refused to grant him permanent residency status.
The four protesters, all of them recognised political refugees who are in Cyprus for over 10 years, are now asking for the mediation of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNCHR) offices in Nicosia.
Aldaf amended a previous comment made to the Cyprus Mail, saying that the refugees are only interested in leaving the island. “This is a misunderstanding. Our first goal is to stay on the island, to be granted equal rights like all citizens and to be able to work. We have friends here, we have family here. We want to stay. But it seems that the government doesn’t want to give us equal rights.”
Talking for himself, Aldaf said: “I want to stay. But if that is not possible then I would like the option to leave. To be relocated to another country. To go somewhere where I’m given rights and not treated as a slave.”
Asked whether he would settle for a non- EU country, like Egypt, Aldaf added: “I don’t care. If immigration services pick up the phone and tell me that they are sending me to live to Egypt I will go”. The hunger strikers will stop taking water on June 16.
The refugees, three men and a woman called off a 52-day hunger strike on January 11 when Interior Minister Socratis Hasikos promised that their applications would be examined as a priority and that they would receive answers soon. They began their second hunger strike on realising that the state was dragging its feet.